Mount Stuart Design Exhibition Scotland exhibition

What better way to take in the splendour of one of Scotland’s grandest buildings.

A fur draped lion seat, created by artist and designer James Rigler, is now taking “pryde” of place at Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute.

Five new park bench prototypes have been unveiled at the A-listed building as part of a project by Design Exhibition Scotland, which was launched in 2018 to “showcase exceptional objects and ideas for the everyday.” 

Through an open call that received more than 60 submissions, emerging and established Scots designers, artists and architects were asked to submit designs that were inspired by the Gothic architecture of the building and the landscape of Bute.

The judges, who included Sophie McKinlay, director of programme at Dundee’s V&A , were looking for designs that celebrate all that the public bench offers: the joy of sitting outside and the chance to pause for thought and take in a view.

Materials used included locally sourced wood and quarried sandstone, recycled plastic, marbled jesmonite, ceramics, and scrap metal.

Four design teams were selected to create outdoor benches and as part of a separate commission Mr Rigler designed a new indoor bench for the interior of Mount Stuart, which is the ancestral home of the Marquesses of Bute. 

His design encourages visitors to gaze heavenwards at the marble columns, Gothic arches and blue ceiling inset with stars and was made with glazed ceramic, timber, imitation gold leaf, faux fur and rope.

“I liked the idea of a piece of furniture that was, in theory, speaking the same language as the contents of the house yet didn’t quite fit,” said the artist.

“The use of imitation materials, as well as the amped-up colours and chunky scale, hopefully give it a playful but slightly uncanny presence.”

Chris Dobson combined hand-made Orkney chair designs with more recent brutalist concrete bus shelters found on the Isle of Lewis.

The structure offers a “welcoming embrace” for Mount Stuart visitors to enjoy the landscape in all weathers.

READ MORE: Dazzling designs on display at Mount Stuart House

Andy Campbell of Dress for the Weather and Stefanie Cheong questioned how to connect materials of the deep past with contemporary pollutants and the resulting bench combines a base of old red Sandstone and an inlaid plastic seat made of recycled waste.

HeraldScotland:

C.A. Walac’s bench is created from scrap metal she found in her Glasgow studio while Rekha Maker designed a multi-functional bench from Jesmonite and fibreglass that combines places to sit and flat surfaces to place picnics and books.

HeraldScotland:

Susanna Beaumont, Director Design Exhibition Scotland said: “There’s something so generous about a bench. 

“You could be there on your own, chatting with a friend or eating a sandwich: but there’s something in that sense of a bench for all.

“I was really delighted that we had such a brilliant range of proposals. 

“We had established architectural firms, design collectives, recent graduates and celebrated Scottish designers.”

HeraldScotland:

“I hope the selected benches can act as prototypes to be replicated and to populate urban and natural spaces in Scotland creating further opportunities for the emerging designers involved.”

Mount Stuart House was designed by Sir Robert Rowand Anderson for the 3rd Marquess in the late 1870s, replacing an earlier house by Alexander McGill, which burnt down in 1877.  

READ MORE: Galleries and Exhibitions: A Will Maclean retrospective, poster are and a beauty on Bute 

Notable features include the colonnaded marble hall at the centre of the main block and the marble chapel which has an elaborate spired tower and is the tallest part of the building. Two earlier wings in a strikingly different style survive. 

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They are much smaller in scale, have Georgian-style sash windows and are painted white.

Mount Stuart claims to have the world’s first heated pool in any house and was also the first home in Scotland to be lit by electricity.

The bench project complements the building’s long tradition of commissioning site-specific installations. 

The temporary exhibiting – Sitting Pretty – is running from July 9 until October 15.